A customer came through the shop the other day and was bluntly honest: "I've done everything I can do to get ready without getting equipment out of the shed. I'd normally be putting on anhydrous this time of year, getting the planter out and checking it over, and getting ready to roll, but this year there's still two feet of frost in the ground and it's going to be a couple weeks at the earliest before I get in the field. For the first time in years, I'm all caught up and I've got nothing to do."
Okay, we all know there's always SOMEthing to do on a farm, but we all know the way the guy feels. This year is driving everybody nuts with a winter that refuses to go away and a spring that refuses to arrive. Here are a few things to do now that will save time and improve efficiency once planting weather arrives and we're all busier than we want to be.
-Hook up the planter to the tractor, install all the monitors and displays and controllers, and spend an afternoon checking calibrations, set-ups, and other programmed information. Hook a battery charger to the tractor's batteries to ensure the batteries maintain at least 11.5 volts so all the electronic gadgetry has enough power to operate correctly. Some of you are doing some pretty sophisticated things with mapping, prescription seeding, and wireless transfer of information, so now is a good time to make sure you have all the bells and whistles ringing and tooting properly.
-If you have a new generation seed monitor that allows you to monitor seed spacing, row unit down pressure, and change those variables on-the-go, make sure you know how to adeptly read, understand and alter those values.
-If you use automatic row shutoffs, be sure the turn-on and turn-off values are appropriate for the speed you will be planting. Be sure your seed monitor has a valid speed source, whether it is radar, ground speed or GPS-based.
-In short, spend time sitting in the cab getting re-aquainted with your planter control systems. For some of you, that means making sure the lights for each row on your seed monitor blink on or off when a long-stemmed screwdriver is passed back and forth in front of each seed tube's seed sensor eye. For others, it means calibrating and coordinating up to four or more consoles, displays, monitors, laptops, iPads and smartPhones in an array along one side of your tractor cab that rivals anything on the Space Shuttle.
And when you're done checking the electronics, do a quick inventory and make sure you're stocked up on talc/graphite, spare seed tube sensors, drill shaft shear bolts and shear pins, marker arm shear bolts, aerosol contact cleaner for cleaning electrical connectors, and all the other things that experience has taught you to carry in the cab when planting.